The La'el Collins sweepstakes seems to be heating up, even as teams wait for news that the former LSU offensive lineman has been cleared of any involvement in a woman's murder. According to Ross Dellenger, an LSU beat writer for The Advocate in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, the Miami Dolphins have scheduled a meeting with Collins for today, a day after he met with police in an effort to end a legal situation that saw him go from a possible top ten pick in last weekend's NFL Draft to an undrafted free agent teams are still weary of signing.
Police in Louisiana wanted to question Collins on his connection to Brittany Mills, who was murdered last Friday. Mills was shot at her home when she opened the door for someone police believe she knew. She was 29 years old and was eight-months pregnant at the time of the shooting; doctors were able to deliver the baby boy, but he died over the weekend.
Police have not confirmed who is the father of the child.
Collins and Mills reportedly dated in the past, but had broken up and were said to not have had contact since September. Police have repeatedly stated Collins is not being looked at as a suspect in the murder, but was wanted to for questioning about his relationship with her and for any clues he may be able to provide as to who may have killed Mills.
Any team that would like to sign Collins must sign him as an undrafted free agent, following stipulations in the NFL and NFL Players Association Collective Bargaining Agreement, meaning they cannot sign him to a huge contract similar to what an unrestricted free agent would receive. The CBA determines that undrafted free agents will sign a three-year contract (so Collins cannot sign a one-year deal this season, then look for more money next year) that pays only the following types of compensation: (1) Rookie Salary (signing bonus, workout bonus, salary, guaranteed salary, permitted performance incentives, roster bonus, and reporting bonus) (2) minimum offseason workout per diem beginning in the second year of the contract, and (3) applicable minimum salary for players on the active/inactive list or players not on the active/inactive list. The minimum salary for 2015 is $435,000, with the total value of the contract being a little over $1.5 million for the three years. In other words, teams cannot offer Collins a contract as if he were a drafted rookie.
Teams must also fit Collins, along with all of their draft picks and other undrafted free agent signings, within their allotted rookie compensation pool. Undrafted free agents are also limited in the size of the signing bonus they can receive, with the 2015 number set at $86,857 as a total pool for each team. Most undrafted free agents will only receiver a few thousand dollars as their signing bonus, which allows for the entire pool to be spread among several players. Collins could eat into that if a team is willing to use more of the pool to attempt to sign him.
The other thing teams can use to intice Collins, assuming he is cleared in the murder investigation, is guaranteed money. There is nothing in the CBA that prevents a team from guaranteeing the contracts for undrafted free agents. A team could take a chance and fully guarantee the entire contract for Collins, giving him the maximum value of the undrafted free agent contract.
A lot of the team visits, to include Miami's, will have to focus on playing time and the state of the franchise, rather than how much money the team can offer, since undrafted free agent contracts are fairly well set by the CBA. Guarantees will be discussed, and Miami can try to use the lack of a state income tax as part of their selling point, but it really is going to come down to whomever can provide Collins playing time and make him the most comfortable.
Perhaps, things like LSU alumni getting involved in the chase for Collins can help with the comfort part. The Dolphins currently have linebacker Kelvin Sheppard, wide reciever Jarvis Landry, and defensive tackle Anthony Johnson, all who played for LSU in college, on the roster. They all met with Collins a week before the draft:
Sheppard then sent this tweet yesterday (which he appears to have since deleted):
Need the whole 954/305 to reach out and support my LSU fam @70LaelCollins and get him to Miami!!! #PhinsUp #BuildingADynasty #LSU4EVER
The Dolphins need offensive line help. A potential top ten draft pick, who plays on the offensive line, is sitting on the open market, just waiting for the right deal to come along. Miami should be making a full court press to land Collins. Hopefully it happens.